In the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Audi is expecting the so far toughest season since the series was launched in 2012. Following two world championship titles in 2012 and 2013, the brand with the four rings will be meeting with the world champions from the last two years – Toyota and Porsche. The most recent generation of the Audi R18 features a new technology concept. It is as powerful and as efficient as none of its predecessors. The LMP1 race car will be competing in nine WEC rounds, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The FIA WEC is one of the five FIA world championships and held on four continents. The racing series for Le Mans prototypes and production-based GT sports cars continues to grow in its fifth season. For the first time, the WEC calendar features nine rounds – the race in Mexico on September 3 having been added this year. As a result, another one of Audi’s growth markets complements the series’ program. The brand with the four rings increased its sales in the Latin American country last year by 9.3 percent. In 2016, production of the Audi Q5* will be launched there.
The other rounds will be held in front of spectators who identify with the four rings as well. For instance, Audi in the United States recorded growth of 11.1 percent, of 5.7 percent in Germany, of 5.2 percent in France, and of 5.0 percent in the United Kingdom in terms of vehicles delivered. “We’re delighted about this parallel trend in racing and market development,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is a central element of our motorsport program. If we can support strong markets with our commitment, that’s a perfect fit. At the same time, we’re happy about the positive response to our appearances by the local audiences.”
To ensure that in 2016 Audi will again be able to battle for victories and WEC titles, the squad of Jörg Zander, Head of Engineering at Audi Sport, has designed a new Audi R18. From the central monocoque, the suspension and aerodynamics, through to the hybrid system, the LMP1 sports car with the four rings has been fundamentally revised. A system change has been made by the engineers with respect to the powertrain. For the first time, the hybrid system is equipped with a lithium-ion battery to store energy. The battery has replaced the flywheel energy storage system Audi relied on from 2012 to 2015. As a result, the electric drive system on the front axle delivers an output of 350 kilowatts – more than twice as much as before. At the same time, the V6 TDI engine that powers the rear axle has become more fuel-efficient once more. The efficiency regulations require it to use 9.79 percent less energy than last year. Still, the engineers have partially compensated the loss. The efficient and powerful unit delivers 378 kW (514 hp). A system output of 1,000 hp means that Audi is competing with the most powerful sports prototype in the company’s history which, at the same time, uses the brand’s most fuel-efficient LMP1 powertrain.
Audi entrusts the high-caliber technology to an experienced team. In 2016, Audi Sport Team Joest that has been with Audi since 1999 is again fielding the race cars. Two Audi R18 cars compete in the FIA WEC. To limit costs, this will be the case at Le Mans as well where previously three race cars featuring the four rings were on the grid in most events. To date, Audi has won the iconic endurance race 13 times. In the driver lineup, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich and his team are relying on continuity. Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D) and Benoît Tréluyer (F) were world champions in 2012. In the first four FIA WEC years, they won ten races – more than any other driver. In the 2016 season, the WEC record holders will be on the grid together with car number “7.” Car number “8” is shared by Lucas di Grassi (BR), Oliver Jarvis (GB) and Loïc Duval (F), the 2013 world champion. In the course of their first joint season in 2015, their performance curve consistently increased – now they are set on attacking. A seventh driver completes the lineup: René Rast (D) has shown good performances last season and in tests. In 2016, he is Audi’s reserve driver for the Le Mans 24 Hours.